What happens if I don’t create a will?

Imagine you died today. Who would inherit your home, vehicle, and property? Who would care for your children? If you don’t have a will, your estate would be divided among your relatives through a process called “intestate succession,” according to Texas law. While you may trust that your property would be allocated fairly, you might be surprised to learn who gets what — and how much more difficult the process could be for your relatives and loved ones when you don’t have a will in place. Here’s an overview of how the state of Texas typically allocates property when you die without a will:

Decedent was MARRIED at Death

Decedent was SINGLE at Death

Unmarried Couples: If you live with a partner, but you are unmarried, and you don’t have a will, your partner will not inherit your property — unless your partner can prove you meet the Texas state requirements for a common law marriage. If the court does not deem you and your partner to be married, your estate will be divided among your relatives. As you might imagine, it will be much more difficult for your partner to receive his or her inheritance if you do not leave it to them through your will.

Domestic Partnerships: In states that recognize domestic partnerships, partners inherit in the same way as a surviving spouse. However, Texas does not recognize domestic partnerships — although, like all 50 states, Texas does recognize same-sex marriages. If you live with a domestic partner but are unmarried and/or don’t wish to marry, creating a will is the best way to ensure your partner is provided for after your death, regardless of your state’s laws.

The rules above may sound fair — but you may wish for your property to be divided differently. For example, if you don’t enjoy a close relationship with the relative next in line to inherit your property, creating a will can ensure your assets pass to the people you choose. Perhaps you do have children from a prior marriage, but you want to leave your spouse a greater portion of your community or separate property. Or, perhaps you want to donate some of your property to charity, or to a religious organization.

Of course, creating a will is about more than dividing property. If you have children under 18, it’s also important to think about who will care for them if you die before they become adults. In Texas, the court will appoint a guardian if you die without a will. Grandparents are considered first, followed by the nearest relative. If no relatives are available, the state will appoint someone else. Decisions are made based on factors like willingness and ability to provide care, location, and the best interests of the child. While the court will do its best to exercise caution in this decision, you may have opinions about who would make the best guardian for your children, based on parenting style, abilities, and your level of trust with the person.

The good news is, you don’t have to allocate your property or establish a guardianship according to the Texas state intestate guidelines. It’s ultimately up to you to determine what happens to your estate and who cares for your children after you die — but to exercise this right, you must create a will. Fortunately, it’s less expensive and time-consuming than you might think. With Texaswillsonline.com, you can have an attorney create your Will at a cost of only $225.